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Happy Few
October 11, 2010 1:01 PM   Subscribe

Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day.


Merlin Mann invites you to memorize, perform, and record the Happy Few speech from Henry V before St. Crispin's Day, October 25.
posted by swift (63 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
I love this speech. But I'm not going to even try this. I am too much in awe of Kenneth Branagh's definitive rendition.
posted by bearwife at 1:05 PM on October 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


I work in a historic movie palace. I'm so doing this on stage.
posted by penduluum at 1:16 PM on October 11, 2010


Reminds me of his call to do power-pop covers "I Am A Cinematographer". I guess I'm not going to get around to recording mine.
posted by statolith at 1:20 PM on October 11, 2010


I've never read Henry V before, but it would seem that it was a direct influence on another speech before battle.
posted by hanoixan at 1:20 PM on October 11, 2010


Damn, I was really hoping hanoixan's link went to Bill Pullman's humiliating speech in Independence Day. I felt bad for the guy.
posted by Justinian at 1:23 PM on October 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


Sorry, I only memorize Shakespeare bits that have been featured on Stick Figure Theater.
posted by Eideteker at 1:25 PM on October 11, 2010


I've never read Henry V before, but it would seem that it was a direct influence on [Braveheart]

I thought so too. And I just blue myself.
posted by hal9k at 1:28 PM on October 11, 2010


Well, now I gotta kick somebody's ass.

...

did Branagh flub Crispian's in that video?
posted by boo_radley at 1:30 PM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Whoever wrote Mel Gibson's speech in Braveheart can't hold a candle to Shakespeare. Isn't that a shocker!

Wikipedia comments that the depiction of the Battle of Stirling in Braveheart also bears little resemblance to the real thing. Again, color me so surprised.
posted by bearwife at 1:35 PM on October 11, 2010


boo_radley: I actually don't love the Branagh version, but I don't think he flubbed it (though they cut the great bit about how he's a total whore for faction points ["But if it be a sin to covet honour, / I am the most offending soul alive."]).

Note that, in the text, it's sometimes Crispian and sometimes Crispin to preserve the meter.
posted by The Bellman at 1:35 PM on October 11, 2010


They're shooting at us. They're actually shooting at us!

(runs off stage)
posted by Senor Cardgage at 1:37 PM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Though honestly, when it comes to dramatic speeches from Henry V that at least make a nod towards the glory/debasement duality of war (and that look good performed), I'm slightly more of a fan of 3.3.
posted by penduluum at 1:37 PM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Olivier did it memorably in 1944 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P9fa3HFR02E
posted by Cranberry at 1:40 PM on October 11, 2010


I am going to watch Branagh's version tonite.
I've always meant to get to it, but this youtube makes it essential.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 1:41 PM on October 11, 2010


Bellman: no, really, listen at 2:30. I know that the speech goes between Crispin and Crispian, but not like at.
posted by boo_radley at 1:41 PM on October 11, 2010


The line actually is "Crispin Crispian", in the text right there. Both spellings right next to each other.

I mean, if that's what you're questioning. If it's his pronunciation, you could be right, but it would take a pretty sharp and discerning dialectical ear to distinguish, and mine isn't that good.
posted by penduluum at 1:46 PM on October 11, 2010


Yeah, it sounds like he's stuttering, as though he just caught himself saying the wrong one.
posted by boo_radley at 1:49 PM on October 11, 2010


Or, if your memory is poor and your mood dourer, just recite bits from the end of Black Adder IV, as such:
The guns have stopped because we're about to attack. Not even our generals are mad enough to shell their own men. They think it's far more sporting to let the Germans do it.
Honestly, I like the idea of an odd spate of sudden recitations, far and wide, of the sort that might somehow lead to the unbelieving swapping of anecdotes ("...and then he's supposed to sing 'White Wedding' but he just talks Shakespeare over the whole thing instead..."). I'll be curious to see how this plays out, whether it's more memory-making of that sort for truly innocent bystanders or video-making mostly for the audience of fellow participants and meme-watchers.

But, c'mon, Merlin:
And trolls from MeFi, Reddit—even Digg—
Shall paste their EPIC FAIL we’re simply here—
Or say it’s “really gay”—iambically
We’ll share dumb jokes upon Saint Crispin’s Day!
Mefites on average aren't likely at all to declare this sort of thing "really gay"; we'll be far too busy hollering at each other over historical performances and bitching about the butchering of meter this or that youtuber roughly commits and getting distracted by pentametric odes to Minecraft.
posted by cortex at 1:52 PM on October 11, 2010


I am going to recite it à la Crispin Glover.

* rubs hands, cracks knuckles *
posted by everichon at 1:56 PM on October 11, 2010


One of my favorite picture books when I was a kid featured a dog named Crispin's Crispian.
posted by not that girl at 1:59 PM on October 11, 2010


cortex: "pentametric odes to Minecraft."

Is this a pick I see before me?
(...)
Pale Creeper's offerings, and withering 'splosions,
Alarumed by his sentinel, a skeleton riding a spider

(...)

Wanders off to write "boo radley should not participate in Shakespeare threads" 1000 times.
posted by boo_radley at 2:02 PM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am going to watch Branagh's version tonite.
I've always meant to get to it




I am so, so jealous.

It's one of my favorite movies and (I think) the most accessible Shakespeare film ever. I learned the whole speech eons ago, but every time I see Branagh do it, I want to get up and go invade France Right Now.
posted by CunningLinguist at 2:06 PM on October 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


Yeah, it sounds like he's stuttering, as though he just caught himself saying the wrong one.

You know, you're right, he kind of tweaks the last syllable of "Crispin". Stretches it just a little. I wonder if that's why they use a cutaway shot there.
posted by penduluum at 2:12 PM on October 11, 2010


I didn't read the links. How much is he paying? I could use some extra cash.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:15 PM on October 11, 2010


In passing, did it ever occur to readers that what we have is a clever, shrewd politician working his troops up in jingoistic fashion so they can happy little soldiers about to die for their king?
Of course it is a great speech. But then if you follow Henry from Henry 4th I and II, you
realize just how coldly a calculating guy Hal (Henry) is.Not sure? Ask Falstaff.
posted by Postroad at 2:16 PM on October 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


did it ever occur to readers that what we have is a clever, shrewd politician working his troops up in jingoistic fashion so they can happy little soldiers about to die for their king?

Oh, absolutely. I've felt that way about Harry for ages now. Just finished watching the entire War Of The Roses cycle done by a theater company where they cast all the actors the same across all the plays... and Henry V comes out of it being a very well-rounded character. Manipulative and calculating, yet devastatingly charismatic.
posted by hippybear at 2:22 PM on October 11, 2010


I always remembered this version from Renaissance Man.
posted by livejamie at 2:23 PM on October 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


In passing, did it ever occur to readers that what we have is a clever, shrewd politician working his troops up in jingoistic fashion so they can happy little soldiers about to die for their king?

Umm... yes? That's kind of the point of Henry V? At least, it was when we discussed it at my summer nerd camp when I was, like, 13 (I had a crush on Branagh back then but at some point he just got a bit smarmy for me - like the sum of all Shakespearian heroes adds up to one wretched sort of man).
posted by muddgirl at 2:23 PM on October 11, 2010


I'll be holding my manhood before St Crispin's Day.
posted by i_cola at 2:42 PM on October 11, 2010


Mmmmmmmmm eloquent violent nationalism.
posted by lalochezia at 2:59 PM on October 11, 2010


In passing, did it ever occur to readers that what we have is a clever, shrewd politician working his troops up in jingoistic fashion so they can happy little soldiers about to die for their king?

Absolutely. But still love this speech. It is great persuasive oratory.

The world of great writing would shrink dramatically if we ruled out all the works containing or reflecting questionable objectives or attitudes.
posted by bearwife at 3:08 PM on October 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Olivier did it memorably in 1944

A little too jolly upbeat for my taste. Brannagh I get more a sense of the ambivalence of the circs.

Mind you, Olivier was doing a propaganda film. Interesting to know if he did alternate takes in other later (earlier?) productions.
posted by IndigoJones at 3:09 PM on October 11, 2010


I've watched Branagh's Henry V at least thirty times. I don't feel so weird anymore. Thanks.

(I've found most of Kenneth Branagh's Shakespearian stuff to be mesmerizing. I don't know if it's his diction, or cadence, or what, exactly - he just seems to make the language so authentic and natural.)
posted by Benny Andajetz at 3:11 PM on October 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Not Exactly The St. Crispin's Day Speech
posted by williampratt at 3:27 PM on October 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


Every generation gets the Henry it needs. If you're at war with the Nazis and London is getting bombed every night, you get Olivier. If you're at war with... who? we're what now? you get something like Brannagh.

I always think of cheap manhoods when I see the Bushes, the Cheneys, the Quayles, the Wolfowitzes.
posted by Trochanter at 3:28 PM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


You know, you're right, he kind of tweaks the last syllable of "Crispin". Stretches it just a little. I wonder if that's why they use a cutaway shot there.

Nah, he'd never let that into the final film. If nothing else, they'd fix it with ADR.
posted by tzikeh at 3:39 PM on October 11, 2010


I'm holding my manhood cheap right now.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 3:45 PM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


I learned the whole speech eons ago, but every time I see Branagh do it, I want to get up and go invade France Right Now.

Also, it's been mentioned already, but the speech at the gates of Harfleur made my brother (who was watching it with me at the time) turn to me and say "Honestly, why does he need the army? He could just yell his way across France."
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 3:46 PM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


It'll cost you $20 to hold my manhood. Same as in town.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 3:49 PM on October 11, 2010


$20!!! You call that cheap!!?!!
posted by Trochanter at 3:51 PM on October 11, 2010


Interesting that both the Branagh and the Olivier (my favorite) version cut out the same part.

Here reproduced:

"By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost.
It earns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet honor,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
God's peace, I would not lose so great an honor
As one man more methinks would share from me
For the best hope I have. Oh, do not wish one more."

I guess they thought it was a bit of a digression. But I like the humility in it.
posted by lumpenprole at 4:34 PM on October 11, 2010


I like the humility in it

I do too. But it functions like an aside in the speech, a short digression involving Henry talking about himself. The rest is a direct address to the nobles and the troops. So I think it makes sense to remove that part, to keep the flow of the inspirational rhetoric moving forward.
posted by bearwife at 4:45 PM on October 11, 2010


I've been doing this too much lately, and challenging at least the spirit of the self-link rule, even if I'm within the letter, BUT... here's that speech in a few different versions, including two not yet posted here.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 6:08 PM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm so doing this. I'd love it if someone could give me a bit of a gloss on a couple of lines that I've never fully understood:

Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day...


My best interpretation is something like:

Old men forget, and eventually he will forget everything,
But he'll always remember more than anything else,
The feats he did that day...


Right? It's the "yet all shall be forgot" that confuses me. He's not using "yet" in a contradictory way, right, but in a sort of temporal way? And the old man he's imagining is the one who shall forget all? Or is he making some sort of commentary on how everyone ELSE will forget what he did that day, but he never will? And what's up with "with advantages"?
posted by Rock Steady at 6:08 PM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Age will make him forget all but what he did this day. With embellishments.
posted by Trochanter at 6:12 PM on October 11, 2010


Age may make him forget many things, but not this day. And the tales will grow with the telling.

Aeschylus' tombstone doesn't say anything about his fifty years as one of the most celebrated playwrights in Greece, but by god it says he fought at Marathon.
posted by Trochanter at 6:17 PM on October 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


Shakespeare? Feh.

Hey, what's all this "lyin' around" shit?
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 6:26 PM on October 11, 2010


I may need to do this to redeem myself for something I did years ago...

I briefly dated an actor, and once on a date we went to the Arms and Armor exhibit at the Met. At one point, as we were wandering about and looking at armor, he suddenly started reciting this. I settled back to listen, all starry-eyed and "woo he's reciting Shakespeare to me and it's a speech I'm not familiar with."

At least, I THOUGHT I wasn't familiar with it. ...But then when he got to the end:

"We few, we happy few, we band of brothers,
For he that sheds his blood with me today shall be my brother."

And suddenly I realized I'd heard that before, and blurted out: "Oh, wait, I remember this! Chris Stevens said that in an episode of Northern Exposure once!"

...Somehow my date forgave me.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:34 PM on October 11, 2010


Whoops. It's funnier with the correct link....

Hey, what's all this "lying' around" shit?

posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 6:35 PM on October 11, 2010


I always remembered this version from Renaissance Man.

I always liked that version too, more for how it fits in with the story in that movie than for how well he delivered the lines. I've always thought that scene was really well done all around.


I'm so doing this. I'd love it if someone could give me a bit of a gloss on a couple of lines that I've never fully understood:

Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day...


I think it can be interpreted two ways. One, Old men forget and everything is forgotten eventually. Kind of saying, "Eventually, everything is lost to the sands of time." Second, Old men forget and when they're really old they start to lose their marbles and forget just about everything...except this.

My feeling is that the first part of the line, "Old men forget" covers the latter theme.

Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words --
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester --
Be in their flowing cups freshly remembered.
This story shall the good man teach his son,
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be rememberèd,

The fact that these lines follow make me think that the interpretation is something like this:

Old men forget: When the men who survive this are old, they'll forget everything except this day.

Yet all shall be forgot: Almost everything gets lost to the sands of time but (after delivering the other lines) not only will the old guy missing most of his marbles missing remember you (the nobles and how awesome you were this day) but this day (and your awesome deeds and how awesome you are) will be remembered for all time.

At least, that is what I think.
posted by VTX at 7:54 PM on October 11, 2010


I'm more or less with VTX. I'd say:

Old men forget; yet even though he [who fought with us] might forget everything else [all shall be forgot...but],
He'll still remember, with advantages [embellishments supplied by his ego and the passage of time],
What feats he did that day...
posted by uosuaq at 8:12 PM on October 11, 2010


I always thought "all shall be forgot" doesn't specifically refer to just the old men - it's two separate things: (1) Old soldiers will grow forgetful, but they'll never forget their deeds that day, and (2) the rest of the world may not remember those deeds, but the soldiers will not forget.
posted by muddgirl at 8:37 PM on October 11, 2010


Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day...


I thought it meant:

old men forget, and forget most everything
but the feats he will do this day he will remember - with embellishments.
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:44 PM on October 11, 2010


did Branagh flub Crispian's in that video?

The day is the Feast of St. Crispin, but the popular (apocryphal) backstory is of two brothers named Crispin and Crispian (also Crispinian). It's not textually clear to me but some readers believe Shakespeare combined them into one. They were in the play because of a legendary (again, they were probably not real, being just a Greek/Latin gloss for "shoe") association with Faversham, one of several appropriate geographic references in the play. Shakespeare may have known the story because of a 1598 publication, the year before he wrote his play.
posted by dhartung at 9:41 PM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow, so my decades-old mini obsession with all things Henry V is (maybe) not so weird?

I did watch the Branagh movie so many times way back when that I think I probably had the entire movie memorized, not just this speech. But it's been a while....
posted by bdragon at 11:52 PM on October 11, 2010


I parsed the "with advantage" as primarily (or at least "also") "to his advantage," i.e., a soldier who can claim he was there and not be totally lying will probably be able to milk that like nobody's business.

I guess that's not that different from the "with embellishments" reading.
posted by Earthtopus at 1:21 AM on October 12, 2010


hmmm, this gives me an idea.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:06 AM on October 12, 2010


I'd love it if someone could give me a bit of a gloss on a couple of lines that I've never fully understood

Memail grumblebee? Seems I recall reading an amazing, lengthy analysis of the St. Crispian's Day speech that he wrote. I don't think it was a mefi post--it might have been on his own website.
posted by dlugoczaj at 10:43 AM on October 12, 2010


It was by grumblebee, and it was, of course, fantastic.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 10:50 AM on October 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


Beast recites Sheakspeare
posted by homunculus at 12:51 PM on October 12, 2010


Well? Anybody follow through on Merlin's Highbrow Distraction™?

I tried. Got a little bit. Nothing worth recording. Kudos to anyone who got it.
posted by Alt F4 at 5:05 PM on October 25, 2010


Michael Caine cast in apocalyptic retelling of Shakespeare's Henry 5
posted by homunculus at 7:23 PM on November 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I read "apoplectic" and thought, "Now THAT'S something to see."
posted by Trochanter at 1:06 PM on November 3, 2010


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